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Theology and issues about Christian dressing and appearance (1)

by Church Times

 

B y Olatokunbo Odunuga

From the onset, I wish to mention that what I’m about to share is not about situation ethics. There had been the tendency by some to regard as objectionable externalities such as the use of Ear-rings, women in Trousers, and men with beards and mustaches, etc. I believe such should necessarily have no bearing with Christianity, within certain bounds which shall be clarified. So, the Body of Christ ought not to be divided along those lines.

I have often expressed to my friends that preachers and teachers of the bible should not entirely dispense with the need for at least a working knowledge of basic theology on the premise that it is only anointing that matters. Otherwise, some of us will stand rebuked by the statement of Myles Munro that those who choose not to study theology- formally or informally may be entwined with anointed ignorance.

I have mentioned before that, recently the president of Namibia ordered the closure of 6,000 churches in his country and insist that only church leaders who are graduates of Theology will henceforth be authorized to lead churches. He must have observed that there were too many charlatans behind pulpits in that country.

Those who read trousers, etc into Deuteronomy 22: 5, only do what is termed ‘eisegesis’, meaning the imposition of one’s opinion or bias into scriptures rather than ‘exegesis’, meaning drawing out what the scriptures are actually conveying contextually and dispensationally.

The Bible does not mention trousers, rather that women should not put on men’s dresses and vice versa. What is accepted as men’s wear in a society may be what is socially accepted as women’s dress somewhere else.

For instance, if women are indeed divinely instructed not to wear trousers, specifically, in this dispensation, then the majority of Indians and other Asian women, Christians or otherwise are in danger of eternal perdition. I hardly hear people speak against men wearing female dresses.

But in the same vein, Welsh men, Itshekiri, Urhobo men in the Delta State of Nigeria, and others who wear wrappers that resemble female dress, as a matter of culture would also be “playing with fire”. And those who wear Unisex may equally be in great danger of “Gehenna”.

A well-known resourceful preacher explained that the reason God instructed the Hebrews against mixed dressing was so that they will not be influenced or probably mistaken for homosexuals in the lands of such breed of people they would be passing through during the wilderness journey.

I’m personally not in support of obscene ragged or indecent tight forms of trousers that reveal the profile or contours of the women. But I observe that the broad straight-down decent forms of trousers worn by Asians for instance, apart from their responsible and respectable appearance, cover their nakedness more effectively than virtually all skirts and blouses.

Besides, in event of attempted assault, it is more difficult to abuse a lady in such trousers than one in a skirt and blouse or in the typical native Nigerian “Iro and Buba”, the common attire of Yoruba women in Nigeria or Brazil.

Deuteronomy 22v5 explained

I often wonder why we dwell much on Deuteronomy 22: 5 and overlook other subsequent verses in the same chapter and context. For instance, if one stumbles on a bird sitting on its young ones, say in the bush, the Bible command in verses 6-7 is to take the young ones and let the mother bird go.

But I can declare assuredly that in 99 out of 100 cases, men including pastors would capture the mother bird instead because that is where the sumptuous delicacy is. Verse 8 prescribes paraphet for the roof of houses. The architecture in Israel of those days was such that the houses were generally flat-roofed and there are stairways constructed along the vertical wall to the roof.

The idea of parapets was to prevent the accidental falls from the roof, especially if the building exceeded one floor. It was while King David was on the flat roof of his palace, probably with a glass of wine that “makes life merry” -Ecclesiastes 10: 19 – that he saw bathing Bathsheba from probably a two-storey roof. Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba was a member of the brigade of guards, so hard to live in the proximity of King David for the security and defense of his king.

Verse 9 is against mixed or cross-agricultural practices, but modern farmers plant diverse crops within the same farm, and the harvests from such “infringement” are not forfeited to the authorities, as prescribed in that verse. Verse 11 forbids the wearing of clothing made of mixed materials, such as wool and linen. But people wear tergal and other full-featured clothing without batting an eyelid

About earrings: The suggested position

On the issue of earrings, I consider it a neither here nor there issue because the use of earrings or abstinence from the use, like the wearing of decent female Oriental trousers as discussed earlier, has no bearing on or negate or promote our eternal status. I only expect the use to be based on personal conviction or divine direction as some often lay claims to and of course moderation, decency or modesty ought to be factors.

I’m aware that thousands of years ago as far back as 4,000 B.C., earrings and other adornments were of pagan and idolatrous origin. Even many of the forefront Church Fathers preached against them. But the tone, mood, and context of scriptures severally in the Old Testament- before the Law, during the Law, and the Prophets- did not specifically or by implication condemn their use.

Now there is a scriptural perspective to this in the New Testament: “What matters is not your outer appearance–the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes– but your inner disposition”- 1 Peter 3 :3.

Peter an apostle touched on three distinct issues in this verse: haircut, jewelry, and dress. He did not directly or by implication suggests that any of them should be dispensed with. But I observe that some choose to do away with earnings [jewelry] entirely but not with hair braiding, sewing, or wearing of dress [ clothing ], otherwise, they would go around naked.

I still have no issue with such women if based on personal discretion, conviction, or divine mandate. To be candid, one may choose to dispense with ornaments and utilize the funds so conserved for more worthwhile personal development, investment or to support charity or other kingdom purposes.

Nakedness: What the Bible means

I think I need to dwell a bit on the nakedness alluded to above. Lest some may ask, what is wrong with going naked if God demands it, after all in Isaiah 20: 2-3, Isaiah went about naked for three years on the divine mandate, and Peter also, out of zeal for the Lord also was naked [ John 21:7 ]?

Now, nakedness was Jewish custom in bible times and is not the same as nakedness today in Nigeria and elsewhere. To be naked then was to strip off the outer cloak with the inner garment next to the skin still in place. If one does not have this understanding, he would assume Isaiah and Peter committed indecent exposure. Of God is not an Author of public indecency!

Apparently, some versions, such as NIV, CJB, RecV, Message, etc made this clarification, but KJV, NKJV and some others gave the impression of stark nakedness.

Further, I have seen ladies who have a teetotaler approach towards earrings but put on expensive gold bracelets, wristwatches, or golden buttons whose value is probably a thousand-fold the value of the earrings they discard. Are we getting somewhere, please? The fact that Aaron, the “G.O.” of Jewish Bible Church International collected the women’s earrings to make a golden calf does not imply that it is evil or a sin to use them in this generation.

And if even Aaron did not abuse their earrings, that would still also not have established a justification for the use by believers in this age. But it was clear that the Israelite women used earrings about 3,700 years ago and after and it is certain that they were not born with natural perforation on their ears. And of course, the early Christians must have used earrings

in the first century, for Peter to have addressed it in his general epistle and for Paul to have also given counsels on it in his epistle to Timothy. In essence, the two foremost apostles shift our emphasis on inner attitudes, and less emphasis on external correctness, without actually sanctioning the modest and discreet use of adornments.

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